Gary Numan / Big Black Delta / Roman Remains Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, March 27

Gary Numan / Big Black Delta / Roman Remains Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, March 27
Photo: Shane Parent
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While the greatest triumphs in terms of popularity may have come for Gary Numan back in the early '80s, this concert proved that the pioneering electronic musician still commands a loyal army of Numanoids. The Phoenix was generously populated for the opening bands and the crowd continued to swell to near capacity by the time Numan began. While the audience certainly skewed a bit older, proving Numan has had sticking power with his first generation of fans, a healthy contingent of scene kids and new industrial fans also demonstrated that his impact on electronic music is still keenly felt.

First to take the stage were Roman Remains, the latest project from Liela Moss and Toby Butler of the Duke Spirit. They combined playful, occasionally saccharine vocals with shivering, atmospheric rivers of sound. The deep, throbbing bass lines added some tectonic depth, that was often belied by the sugary lyrics.

Big Black Delta, the solo project of Jonathan Bates (Mellowdrone), brought a deeper and richer sonic palate to his performance. Joined on stage by live drummer Chris Hornbrook (Poison the Well), Bates created soundscapes that often shifted between the comforting and endearing to the alien and strange. Several of their songs seemed on the verge of becoming synthy '80s power ballads, only to suddenly become twisted and ethereal, urgent and aching, like pop music performed by ghosts. Much like the unexplained objects (big black deltas, or BBDs, are a particular class of supermassive UFO) that is their namesake, Big Black Delta are difficult to hold or rationalize, but wonderfully overwhelming to experience.

Gary Numan's headlining performance heralded an established artist flatly refusing to rest on his impressive laurels. Having just released his 12th, immaculately produced record, Splinter: Songs From A Broken Mind in October 2013, there was an excitement and vitality to his set, coupled with the deep familiarity and sense of command that only comes from spending decades on stage. His sweeping, stylized gestures and the undulating contortions of his body as he performed made him look like he was chanelling more than singing or playing an instrument. The set ranged widely, with material from his latest released woven between much-loved classics like "Metal" and "Cars." Whether it was an audience member's first or 15th time seeing Numan perform, the show was captivating.

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